When veterinarians gathered for the annual American Veterinary Medical Association conference in St. Louis, they were met by members of the St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START), who wanted to know why the organization continues to support mutilating cats’ paws to please their owners. PETA, START, and other groups have been taking the AVMA to task for years for its refusal to condemn declawing.
Declawing is not just an extreme manicure. It is 10 amputations of cats’ toes, removing the last joint of each digit. In addition to enduring the excruciating pain of the surgery itself, declawed cats can have difficulty walking; experience weakening of the back, shoulder, and leg muscles; have been known to stop using the litterbox; and often become withdrawn, irritable, or aggressive.
Declawing cats to keep them from scratching is comparable to mutilating dogs’ vocal chords to keep them quiet. Yet the cruel procedure of debarking is something that 92 percent of people oppose. We wouldn’t lop off our children’s fingers for getting into things or have our babies de-vocalized for crying, so why would we mutilate our companion animals? Nearly two dozen countries—including Australia, Japan, and England—have banned or restricted declawing, and many veterinarians refuse to perform this cruel surgery for the sake of human convenience.
While scratching is a natural and necessary feline behavior, there are many ways to protect furniture and belongings without resorting to having cats’ toes chopped off. Providing suitable places to scratch—such as sisal, wood, or cardboard scratching posts—and protecting furniture with double-sided tape or covering cats’ nails with Soft Paws nail covers are all easy and affordable options. (Find more tips in PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You.)
If you know someone who is intent on acquiring a feline animal companion only to mutilate the cat’s feet, please remind him or her that animal shelters are full of declawed cats who have been discarded and who would love to have a home.
Written by Michelle Sherrow